This I Believe

Henry - Douglasville, Georgia
Entered on July 25, 2006

I believe that serving ones nation is the highest honor one can aspire to.

For thirty years I have been privileged to serve with the finest men and women our nation has—the soldiers of the United States Army, the sailors, marines, airman, and coastguardsmen of the our the Army’s sister services. The military is a special place and community, its members though citizens are servants of the people of the nation, they are asked to serve in far away places for their nation. They make sacrifices that most do not understand or comprehend; in many ways it is a monastic life. From Korea, to Germany, to Kosovo, to Iraq and Kuwait I have gone where the Army and my nation has asked.

It is not often that one gets a chance to spend a lifetime doing something they enjoy. I have enjoyed my time in the Army, whether on Active Duty or in the Army National Guard. The Army is a unique institution—as we are asked to fight America’s War. That statement belies the implied mission the Army also performs; we keep the peace for the nation. In my thirty years we have kept the peace in Germany on the frontier between the West and the Soviet Empire; we have kept the peace along the DMZ in Korea; and we have restored the Peace in places like Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo some more successful than others.

Today our nation is once again at war. . .we are fighting not a nation but an ideology. An ideology which has turned the theological underpinning of a great religion on its head and instead of preaching peace and looking forward to the future of mankind; the ideology preaches hate and violence and looks to restore what once was. That war has already come to our homeland once and may very well come again, for the enemy operates not in the bright light of the day but in the shadows of the darkness.

This war is going to last a long time. We are going to be engaged in this war for many years to come but it will not be won by the military alone for it is a war that must be won using every asset our nation has to offer. This war is going to require sacrifice by every citizen. Today only a few are making sacrifices for our nation, our volunteer Army is composed rarely of the sons and daughters of those who are rich and powerful; rather, is composed of the son and daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Middle America. There is a gulf which exists between the sacrifices being asked of our Armed Forces and the sacrifices our nation is making. In World War II every one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s sons was in the military. Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert was an officer during the Civil War. James Madison whom I consider to be our greatest native political thinker and philosopher, writing over two hundred years ago in Federalist XLI (41) said, “Every man who loves peace, every man who loves his country, every man who loves liberty, ought to have it ever before his eyes, that he may cherish in his heart a due attachment to the Union of America, and be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it.”

Madison went on to add that our liberties are not free, that they must be sustained by each citizen’s blood, sweat, tears, and toil. Those Lockeian rights which Virginia’s other philosopher citizen Thomas Jefferson stated in Declaration of Independence “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness” may be ours at birth, but to pass from one generation to another it requires that each citizen do their part to nurture those rights and liberties. We as a nation, each citizen, must “set a due value on the means of preserving” those rights, we all must do our part in this war against terror, we must be willing to make sacrifices, and our leaders must be willing to ask every citizen to make sacrifices not just a few.

As I end my thirty years in the Army, I end it where it began in Lexington my home and at VMI where I received my education. Here where I learned the skills of leadership which served me well in the Army through the mentorship of men like Colonel Bill Buchanan and Colonel Jim Williams. Here where the concepts of honor and unselfish service to one states and nation were a way of life; it is here I have chosen to close out this chapter in my life’s work. I end my career with the satisfaction that the Army has done what our nation has asked, that I have my duty, that I have served my fellow citizens, and country well and that I have “borne truth faith and allegiance to our Constitution.” Having the opportunity to serve ones nation for thirty years is the greatest honor bestowed on me. To you my fellow citizens I say thank you, and I leave you with these words from Abraham Lincoln:

, , ,It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.